Winter Fruit – Tu B’Shvat
By Sam Nadler
For those of us who live in colder climates, we usually do not think of winter as a season for bearing fruit. However, the Scriptures encourage us to be fruitful, not based upon the times and seasons, rather, we are given confidence to be producing the spiritual fruit of the life of Yeshua in season and out of season.
Whether this fruit is seen in our praise, which is “the fruit of the lips” from Hebrews 13:15, or in our practice through “the fruit of righteousness” found in Hebrews 12:11, our spiritual fruit is not based on any season but by abiding in Yeshua (John 15:5).
We have a reminder of ‘out-of-season’ fruit in a winter holiday called the Jewish New Year for the Trees-Tu B’Shvat.
The word Tu is the number 15 represented by two letters from the Hebrew alphabet, tet and vav. Shvat is the name of the Hebrew month in which it is celebrated; hence, Tu B’Shvat means “the 15th of Shvat.” This year it arrives on January 31st. Although a minor Jewish holiday it can be encouraged to consider this new year of the trees.
Actually, in the Jewish calendar, it is one of four New Years of Rosh HaShanahs mentioned in the early rabbinic writings. This Holiday was originally a time to take note of the fruits that were counted for the tithes and offerings. During the Middle Ages it developed as a recognized celebration and the eating of fruits was added. To this day it has become popular with many Jewish people. Growing up in my Middle Village, NY synagogue, we celebrated this holiday by eating different types of fruit and nuts and discussing the Land of Israel and its importance to our people.
Traditionally, grapes, dates, olives and pomegranates are all part of the holiday because they are spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures and especially because they are associated with the Land of Israel. Specific categories of fruit and nuts include first, those with hard, inedible exteriors and soft edible insides, like oranges, bananas, walnuts, and pistachios; second, fruits with soft exteriors, but with a hard pit inside, such as dates, apricots, olives and persimmons; and third, fruit that is eaten whole such as figs or berries. Let us consider how these aspects of the Tu B’Shvat fruits can picture our spiritual life:
- “Fruits and nuts with hard, inedible exteriors and soft edible insides” What a vivid reminder of our spiritual life in Messiah! While we are in this world, we often need to be “hard on the outside” in order to be resistant and “not conformed” to conflicting influences (Romans 12:2). For example, the Scriptures often teaches us to “resist the devil” (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:13; 1 Peter 5:7-9). On the other hand since He who is in us is greater than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4) we need to be soft inside, that is yielded and responsive to the Holy Spirit, just as we are resistant to the unholy spirit.
- “Fruits and nuts with soft exteriors, but with a hard pit inside” Here we have another contrasting illustration of our walk in Messiah. The soft exteriors remind us to be loving to all, yet with a “hard pit inside.” This is not to say that we should be hard-hearted, but rather uncompromising in the absolutes of God’s eternal Word. This gives us the internal character of righteous integrity and iron backbone to withstand the wayward wind of this world. How often our merciful “soft exterior” may be offended and hurt by the unkindness of this world system! Our internalizing of the world’s attack on our testimony in Messiah can make “the love of many grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). That is why we need a “hard pit”–a heart firm in the faith of our unchanging love (in Yeshua). No matter how others may despise our faith they cannot stop us from caring and showing God’s love.
- “Fruit that is eaten whole” As we mature, we enjoy all of His Word. Some portions of God’s Word are difficult to digest (John 6:60). But as we press on in His eternal word, we recognize that “solid food is for the mature” (Hebrews 5:14) and that “all Scripture is both inspired and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). As we mature in Messiah’s truth that will cause us to walk in His truth, then every area of our life will bring “praise to His glory” (Ephesians 1:6,12,14).
- “Fruit that is associated with Israel” this category covers all of the rest. Mature fruit-bearing means being less concerned with God’s eternal agenda. A maturity for both Jewish and Gentile believers will further reflect the apostolic concern that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles taught regarding the ministry of prayer: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). Our heart’s desire and spiritual fruit is seen more and more as we become a person after God’s own heart like David, who taught us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).
Therefore, may our maturity in Messiah reflect the heart of the King of the Jews in having fruit associated with Israel!
Please join us in prayer that this year we all will be bearing fruit that testifies of the God of Israel’s love. His love that is fully and forever received in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world.